The Bill Cosby scandal is still receiving international attention, but has been out of the headlines due to more “newsworthy” headlines (like the recent Grammy awards). This has happened before in similar cases, but the conversation is far from over. One of the questions that inevitably get asked is the effect that the accusations will have on the artistic legacy of the accused. Is this a question to be asked at all, as the effect on the victims is a legacy of it’s own? Can you separate an artist from their personal life or legal troubles? This article from Sarah Seltzer of Flavorwire and this article from Frisky (author anonymous) both discuss this question. The Flavorwire article makes the point that damaged people deserve a chance to speak through art, and that a great artist who is terrible person may leave the world better than they found it. The Frisky article deals with the author’s own abuse at the hands of her father, who was a pianist. She says that one cannot separate an artist’s work from their life, because life informs art.
I don’t know how I feel about this. I know that, in high school, seeing R’s art hanging on the walls didn’t bother me. But that was in one part of the building. How would I have felt if it was everywhere? If he were on TV? If everyone around me spoke about him as a great person, even knowing what he’s done? I doubt I’d feel the same. But, at the same time, I believe art should be equal. I believe art is a tool for transformation and expression; this is the core of why I want to be an art therapist if this whole writing thing doesn’t work out. If we’re willing to work with prisoners and showcase their art, is that any different?
I don’t have an answer. Nobody does. But that doesn’t mean we should stop talking about it.